What do you think about Powered by the Apocalypse games?

heks

Explorer
i've only played 'bluebeard's bride' and the new edition of 'kult' and loved both (but i can see the basic mechanics not working for a lot of settings/ideas and think it would be difficult to run any real longterm campaign.)
 

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amethal

Adventurer
I've only ever GM'd Dungeon World and it went terribly. I struggled to improvise, and the players struggled to get out of the more traditional RPG mindset. But I love the idea (and am REALLY loving reading Stonetop) and wish I could play in a game with an experienced PbtA GM.
If I ever get to play in a PbtA game, it will be as the GM, with no one at the table ever having played before (or even heard of PbtA, in most cases). It's less than ideal, but on the other hand that was the starting situation with pretty much every RPG I've run. We had no idea how to play (Mentzer) Basic D&D, but we had a lot of fun finding out.

Having said that, we were much more forgiving in those days, and had far less calls on our time. Nowadays, if the first session of a new game goes badly there probably isn't going to be a second one.

How many sessions of Dungeon World did you run?
 

Vael

Hero
Masks gives fantastic GM rules - not advice, but rather goals, principles, and rules. I've read Apocalypse World and as the granddaddy that's it's legacy - it gives fantastic guidance to the GM how how to run a very particular game incredibly thematically.

And the games are more focused. I don't know if I could see a "big tent" PbtA - and if it loses that hard focus into creating playbooks it would lose a lot of it's appeal. For as much as I like Masks, I wouldn't use if for a general supers game, it's fine tuned around finding out about who you are as a teen super, when your friends, mentors, the public and even your enemies have their own views on who you should be.
How tuned for teen Supers is it? There's been a lot of interest from some friends and myself to do an X-Men in the current era of Krakoa campaign, and I've bounced off a lot of other Supers RPGs. Masks seemed intriguing, but I've only played Monster of the Week a few times, and never DMed a PbtA game.
 

payn

Legend
How tuned for teen Supers is it? There's been a lot of interest from some friends and myself to do an X-Men in the current era of Krakoa campaign, and I've bounced off a lot of other Supers RPGs. Masks seemed intriguing, but I've only played Monster of the Week a few times, and never DMed a PbtA game.
The focus is off your super powers and more on your relationships with each other. I think that is highly appropriate for X-men. Now of course if you want a detailed tactical combat system that will balance out powers, PbtA/Masks is not the way to go.
 

Vael

Hero
The focus is off your super powers and more on your relationships with each other. I think that is highly appropriate for X-men. Now of course if you want a detailed tactical combat system that will balance out powers, PbtA/Masks is not the way to go.

I very much do not want that. I've tried a few crunchy Supers systems that drove me nuts with their point buy systems. FATE was the leading system in contention for me beforehand, but I'll have to give Masks a look.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
How tuned for teen Supers is it? There's been a lot of interest from some friends and myself to do an X-Men in the current era of Krakoa campaign, and I've bounced off a lot of other Supers RPGs. Masks seemed intriguing, but I've only played Monster of the Week a few times, and never DMed a PbtA game.
As payn mentioned, it's more tuned for Teen supers than teen Supers. :)

Much of the game is modelling comics and shows like Young Justice, Teen Titans, even My Hero Academia where who you are, and where do you fit in the world, are major, mechanically supported themes.

If you are looking for tactical-heavy fights, Masks isn't it. If you are looking for the party that comes to shouting and blows within itself and then has that reunion that may leave them brittle or might leave them stronger, and we won't know if you can fully trust each other until a Godzilla-expy is terrorizing downtown - then it's the right game for you.

There is a laser focused on that teen supers genre and aspects of figuring yourself out, and how you fit into the world. I'm loving Masks, but I wouldn't use it for generic supers.

Also running it was my first experience as player or GM to PbtA. I read the rules, skimmed some forums, listened to an actual play, and following the advice reread the rules. It's working, but there's habits from traditional games I need to be able to lay aside I'm still working on.

Oh, and just as a resource, generic supers games I'm interested in (but haven't had a chance to play):
Sentinel Comics: Fate and Cortex had a kid, in the world of Sentinel Comics. Got some interesting ideas, like unlocking powers as the situation gets more dire.
Worlds in Peril: PbtA - how hard can you push yourself and the dangers of stopping a villain at all costs.
Galaxies in Peril: Successor(?) to Worlds in Peril, Forged in the Dark
Marvel Heroic Roleplay + Cortex Prime: Almost more of a Superhero Comic RPG then a Superhero RPG. MHR was obviously very Marvel focused, but bringing in the new edition of the rules from Cortex Prime, whihc includes character creations, could allow a more own-world feel. Among other points, I like that it was able to handle Thor and Hawkeye going out for a boy's night and not worrying about the power differences.
Champions/HERO System: Okay, I'm lying. 6th Ed has all the magic sucked out for me. But I played so much 2nd ed and BBB back in the 80s and 90s that I still have a soft spot for the ultimate in supers simulation.)
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I think the larger issue for an X book type game is that Masks really leans into superhero tropes in a way most X titles do not. Most X titles are pretty much soap operas with occasional fights thrown in. If I were run a X-Men game, I would probably use Cortex Prime (although hewing closer to Smallville than Marvel Heroic).
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Galaxies in Peril: Successor(?) to Worlds in Peril, Forged in the Dark

For a more general supers game as opposed to Masks (which is indeed very much about teen heroes) I’d recommend this game. I was surprised at how suitably the basic FitD system worked for supers. I ran a very fun campaign of this not too long ago, though I used a home brew setting rather than the one presented in the book.

Among other points, I like that it was able to handle Thor and Hawkeye going out for a boy's night and not worrying about the power differences.

The amount of times this comes up… poor Thor’s gonna develop a complex!
 

Greg K

Legend
Not a fan of PBTA. I really dislike the playbook aspect and don't understand the attraction to the system
I also bounced hard off the Masks playbooks.
The super games that do interest me include:
Icons: Assembled
Marvel SAGA (incorporating fixes by Steve Kenson and the online community and Tom Costa's fixes of the official roster books)
Smallville
Marvel Heroic
BASH: Ultimate Edition
Supers: Revised Edition
DC Heroes 1-3/ Blood of Heroes
Mutants & Masterminds 2e and Champions 4e (if I want to run crunchy systems)
I am also tinkering with DC Universe RPG
 
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Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Just got the fulfillment for the kickstarter of Good Guys Finish Last.

It's originally from the 90's, but apparently has some tech way before it's time that's still fresh today. Once I read, perhaps I'll report back.
 

Random Task

Explorer
I think one of the major improvements that Blades in the Dark makes over PbTA is the explicit assigning of stakes and position, giving more guidance to the consequences of a dice roll. I find the potential for cascading complications, with rolls begetting more rolls, exhausting in regular PbTA.
 

Greg K

Legend
Just got the fulfillment for the kickstarter of Good Guys Finish Last.

It's originally from the 90's, but apparently has some tech way before it's time that's still fresh today. Once I read, perhaps I'll report back.
It is an interesting game and forms a separate branch of narrative games on the rpg tree. It was, originally part of Avengers of Justice (by Better Games) which incuded a second game, Villains Finish. Definitely wotth having a look.
 

mythago

Adventurer
Not a fan of PBTA. I really dislike the playbook aspect and don't understand the attraction to the system

It's straightforward, isn't super crunchy, does not involve buckets of dice, and really shines in settings meant to be about the interaction between the characters rather than mechanical actions on the game world. That is, if the focus of play is on the characters' interactions and personal relationships, it models those well and allows the characters to act on those things mechanically while still giving them lots of choices. Somebody already brought up Masks, which I think is the pinnacle of using the system to map a genre. Sagas of the Icelanders also uses the system well, since the milieu is one in which fate, honor, and your relationships with other people are the key to survival.

If the focus of play is about combat or tactics it's much less well suited for that focus. It's a bit LARP-y in that regard, as the characters' abilities are about pushing and pulling each other more than they are about hitting things with other things.

I confess I'm not understanding the objection to playbooks - they're essentially character classes.
 

Greg K

Legend
It's straightforward, isn't super crunchy, does not involve buckets of dice, and really shines in settings meant to be about the interaction between the characters rather than mechanical actions on the game world. That is, if the focus of play is on the characters' interactions and personal relationships, it models those well and allows the characters to act on those things mechanically while still giving them lots of choices. Somebody already brought up Masks, which I think is the pinnacle of using the system to map a genre. Sagas of the Icelanders also uses the system well, since the milieu is one in which fate, honor, and your relationships with other people are the key to survival.
My seven year M&M teen super campaign dealt with interractions and personal relationships just fine. PCs had to deal with one of their own becoming suicidal over abandonment issues. Another player was helped through fear of using his powers. Even had a game of capture the flag that was not won by using powers, but a female character taking advantage of a teammate's attraction to her (the female PC was played by a female player).
If the focus of play is about combat or tactics it's much less well suited for that focus. It's a bit LARP-y in that regard, as the characters' abilities are about pushing and pulling each other more than they are about hitting things with other things.

I confess I'm not understanding the objection to playbooks - they're essentially character classes.
It is that they are essentially classes.
 

amethal

Adventurer
I confess I'm not understanding the objection to playbooks - they're essentially character classes.
My objection to playbooks was that I didn't understand what they were, the term was being bandied about on the internet as if everyone knew what it meant, and in the end it became a "useful" shorthand that allowed me to reject any game that mentioned having them, sight unseen. (The only other context I had for them was from American football, which didn't help.)

It turns out they're essentially character classes :) and that I am way more invested in the arbitrary 1970s terminology I grew up with than I had realised.

It was actually Beyond the Wall (not a PbtA game) that showed me where I was going wrong. The description of the game made it sound amazing, and I must have missed any reference to playbooks. Then, when I got it I found out it had "playbooks" and my reaction was "Oh, is that all they are? Why didn't they say so in the first place?"
 

Aldarc

Legend
My seven year M&M teen super campaign dealt with interractions and personal relationships just fine. PCs had to deal with one of their own becoming suicidal over abandonment issues. Another player was helped through fear of using his powers. Even had a game of capture the flag that was not won by using powers, but a female character taking advantage of a teammate's attraction to her (the female PC was played by a female player).
So how does any of your experiences in a non-PbtA game prevent you from being able to understand, grasp, or sympathize with why people would find PbtA games appealing?

It is that they are essentially classes.
And?
 

I've only ever GM'd Dungeon World and it went terribly. I struggled to improvise, and the players struggled to get out of the more traditional RPG mindset. But I love the idea (and am REALLY loving reading Stonetop) and wish I could play in a game with an experienced PbtA GM.

Presently I'm running 3 weekly games and 2 other intermittent games (somewhere between bimonthly and monthly). If I get some breathing room at some point in the future, I'll see if I can't run a game for you. I'm just putting this out there as a possibility, because (as I've written above) I can't confirm the ability to make some kind of commitment on any timetable. However, I've generally followed through on these kinds of requests as I very much like to introduce folks to indie games.

I confess I'm not understanding the objection to playbooks - they're essentially character classes.

It is that they are essentially classes.

My objection to playbooks was that I didn't understand what they were, the term was being bandied about on the internet as if everyone knew what it meant, and in the end it became a "useful" shorthand that allowed me to reject any game that mentioned having them, sight unseen. (The only other context I had for them was from American football, which didn't help.)

It turns out they're essentially character classes :) and that I am way more invested in the arbitrary 1970s terminology I grew up with than I had realised.

It was actually Beyond the Wall (not a PbtA game) that showed me where I was going wrong. The description of the game made it sound amazing, and I must have missed any reference to playbooks. Then, when I got it I found out it had "playbooks" and my reaction was "Oh, is that all they are? Why didn't they say so in the first place?"

So I'm going to throw some disagreement out there on this to give folks something to think about (or dispute if they wish).

I don't agree that playbooks are "classes" in the traditional D&D TRPG parlance sort of way.

They're not an in-fiction equivalent to "careers." They're not a common noun. They're not a part of an in-fiction, systematic classification to bin characters into types and subtypes. They're not a packet of abilities that gives expression to (or cares about) niche protection.

So what are playbooks and why did Baker formulate them in that way (using his own words):

1) They're one of a kind. Why? Two reasons:

* A simple matter of handling and expedience built into the design; so the MC/GM doesn't have to have 2 of the same playbook!

* Because they're giving expression to a very specific archetype of which we play to find out how this specific archetype manifests during play. How does this archetype impact setting/situation/external characters and how does setting/situation/external characters impact it. Through consequential action taken during play (particular to archetype), how does this expression of character change and develop during play.

2) What do playbooks do?

* They foreground/signal dramatic needs and arenas of conflict by way of expressing both the fictional content of a character and the game content of a character. The who, the why, and the how. Its personal.

* They give expression to novelty of play experience (not niche protection). This is related to that second point in (1) above, but not quite the same. Its mostly the game version of that point (but its still inextricably linked to the fictional inputs and outputs...because that is how these games function).

3) Design-wise, playbooks answer 3 important questions (and I'll just quote VB directly from lumply here):

* When you sit down to play an rpg, what do you have to establish about your character in order to begin play?

* When you play an rpg, what about your character remains constant throughout play, and what changes over the course of play?

* What about your character do you leave for play to decide? What about your character do you play to find out?





So anyway, I think playbook is a very good nomenclature. You make plays as a player. This is what those plays do (and this is how they're operationalized in play; fictional triggers + "if you do it, you do it"). This is how their novelty manifests both at the table (as an experience for all participants to engage with) and in the fiction that we’re imagining. Here is the why and here is the what we're playing to find out about (each respective playbook).

When there is one Gunlugger or one Fighter or one Judge or one Delinquent, its a different deal than traditional Classes (certainly D&D) in both design impetus and the downstream impact upon the fiction of play.

So I'm quite glad Vincent purposefully chose playbook. It’s not the same thing as classes in a number of consequential ways which are not remotely pedantic.
 
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amethal

Adventurer
So I'm quite glad Vincent purposefully chose playbook. It’s not the same thing as classes in a number of consequential ways which are not remotely pedantic.
Thanks for the detailed post on playbooks. I had no doubt the term arose after a lot of careful consideration. (The more I find out about PbtA games, the more I appreciate just how much thought went into them, whereas my idea of game design used to be wondering whether you could combine Climb and Jump into a single Athletics skill, and if so whether it could cover Swim too.)

* When you sit down to play an rpg, what do you have to establish about your character in order to begin play?

* When you play an rpg, what about your character remains constant throughout play, and what changes over the course of play?

* What about your character do you leave for play to decide? What about your character do you play to find out?

So it's Class plus Alignment. Got it! :)
 

pemerton

Legend
I totally get it, and as much as I like the PbtA/FitD approach, I don't think it's for everyone, no shade or judgement or anything else intended, the same way 5e or Traveller aren't for everyone.
I think we've talked before about my idea that Classic Traveller is a proto-PbtA game: it's maths isn't as tight, but it has the basic idea of genre-appropriate "moves" either bound up in the skills, or in the sub-systems for making jumps, buying up trade goods, etc.

I'm not saying that someone interested in PbtA should just play Traveller instead! But imagine playing Traveller, and taking seriously that, if a PC is in a world's urban centre, then the player of that character can declare a Streetwise check to find black markets, corrupt officials and the like; and taking seriously the need to narrate a complication if a player fails their Vacc Suit check when their PC does something other than just move slowly in a vacc suit. You'd have to keep coming up with fiction, right? And you'd want that fiction to push things forward rather than shut them down.

I see PbtA as like that but with even more genre/thematically focused moves, and tighter maths.

I didn't find Apocalypse World to be a great introduction to PbtA, at least for my trad brain. The tone bugged me
Have we talked about this too? I haven't played or GMed AW yet - it's still on my list - but I'm very keen to. I find it clearer, and more compelling, than DW.

I also see it as a nice illustration of the idea that moves, in a PbtA game, tell you what the game is about. So in AW if you (as your PC) have to jump a chasm well you declare that, and the GM replies by making a soft move (unless you hand them a golden opportunity - eg they've describe the chasm as so wide no one could jump it - and then they can make a hard move instead). But if you're doing it under fire, either literally or you're jumping the chasm to get away from Dremmer's gang or whatever, then you have to roll the dice and the whole "snowball" process opens up.

There's no generic task resolution of the D&D or RQ or RM etc variety, no "what's my stat to jump a chasm" or "what's my stat to jump-start a tank" or whatever. There's just the back and forth of action declarations and GM soft moves, until a player declares an action that triggers a player-side move and then the action really starts!

(I feel that DW maybe comes a little bit too close to trying to have generic task resolution - at least to a reader like me, some of the moves don't seem quite as "crisp" as the AW ones.)

For those of us watching from the gallery, could you provide a quick explanation of fronts?
Fronts are broad-scale, lightly-defined pieces of GM "prep material" that will inform some of the fictional setting / constraints.

They're not meant to be heavy metaplots, or rigorously defined components of the setting, but they are meant to provide a backdrop for some of the conflicts the PCs will face.
To add a bit more on this: the way I see it, preparing a front is basically preparing a fictional reservoir of GM moves - stuff to say when the players look to you, or the dice come up 7 to 9 or even moreso 6-, and you've got to add some new content into the fiction. I see it as a type of prep aimed at relieving the burden of improv some posters have mentioned, but without prepping (meta)plot.

Fronts also serve as a type of bridge between two components of the fiction - setting, and characters (including the PCs). By prepping a front, the GM is thinking about how to turn the setting from "backdrop" to something active and antagonistic, and hence something at the forefront of play rather than just stage-setting. You could think of the goal as a type of immersoin-via-visceralness rather than immersion-via-detail-and-catalogues.
 

pemerton

Legend
If I were run a X-Men game, I would probably use Cortex Prime (although hewing closer to Smallville than Marvel Heroic).
Fighting words, for we MHRers!

I've never checked out Smallville, or the relevant chapter(s) of the Hacker's Guide, and probably should. I think that soap-opera stuff in MHR is carried by Milestones. I've seen them work reasonably well, but maybe the Smallville tech is better.
 

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